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Real Zaragoza's star man - Gaizka Toquero (11th November, 2017)

Ahead of Rayo's game against Real Zaragoza, this is a quick piece on their tireless right winger

"¡Ari, ari, ari, Toquero lehendakari!"

It was the 2008-09 Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla. At the San Mamés, the old San Mamés, Bilbao were leading 2-0. But they were not safe - Sevilla had won the first leg 2-1, and a goal at Bilbao would keep them alive.

Step forward, Gaizka Toquero.

Fernando Llorente presses David Prieto and gets the ball off him, but the defender has blocked the only possible angle Llorente can exploit to score. Meanwhile, the other center back, Federico Fazio, is quickly moving towards him. He passes the ball into empty space.

Halfway through the pass, Bilbao fans are already celebrating.

Toquero made the lung bursting run from the halfway line and positioned himself perfectly for the pass. Fazio turns around and runs back to where he was - where he should have been - but it’s too late. Controlled with the left boot and finished with the right, Toquero takes Athletic Bilbao to their first Copa del Rey final in 24 years.

The 24-year-old bald striker, in a single year, went from being a third-division player at Sestao River to being signed for a first division club, to being loaned to second-division Eibar because he didn’t fit Joaquín Caparrós’ plans, being recalled midway because impressive performances meant he now did fit the coach’s plans, scoring against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semifinal and Barcelona in the final, and becoming a Bilbao legend. Ambitious indeed.

And why? He was never the most technically gifted, nor the most talented. But it was his dedication, boundless energy and sacrifice for the team that made him so valuable - and that energy would rub off on the fans. Values that have existed since childhood.

Values that represent where he comes from.

In many ways he is unlucky - his hard work has resulted in five medals, but they are all silver and not gold. Three Copa del Reys, a Europa League and a Supercopa in seven years.

He would go on to join Alavés in 2015, where he started his football career but never played for the first team. He is now at Real Zaragoza, and at 33 is still going, playing on the right wing. With the same dedication, sacrifice, humility and ambition from the start of a game to the end of a game, from the start of his career to the end of his career, Toquero is truly El Lehendakari.

The president.

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